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04 September, 2008

Kosi floods: Maoist party journal on need to re-negotiate treaty with India

Dipak Sapkota
Reproduced below is an article which has appeared in the latest issue (Volume I, No. 14, dated September 1-15, 2008) of the Red Star, journal of Prime Minister Prachanda’s Maosit party

More than 70,000 people were displaced when Nepal’s largest river, the ‘Saptakoshi’, burst its banks and flooded more than seven villages. Scores of people have died and many are lost. All kinds of crops were washed away and cattle have been either swept or killed. The government officials have stated that the properties of about 300 million people have been destroyed. The flood still covers the affected villages. The displaced are living a harsh life in dry places that they can find, on the highway or on the embankments. The flood is constantly bursting the banks of the eastern side. Most of the villages of the Sunsari district will be flooded if it does not cease or stopped in some way.

The Saptakoshi is made up of seven big rivers of eastern Nepal, and has more than a hundred thousand cusecs of water in non-rainy seasons. This tie when the flood breached the embankments it had more than 180,000 cusecs of water.

In 1955, the then Nepal government made a compromise with India, in the treacherous treaty that has created devastating havoc in Nepal. India made a huge barrage in the Saptakoshi, diverting large amounts of water through canals to irrigate land in India. Nepal does not have enough water when necessary, but suffers from flooding in the monsoon. Thousands of acres of land were granted to India to make a dam, barrage and canal; leading to the displacement of thousands of people. The barrage and canals are over 50 years old, but they were not repaired in time.

On 18th August, the Indian authorities closed the gates of the barrage which would have stopped the huge flood of the Koshi that broke the embankment of the eastern side, leading to the flooding of many villages.

Coincidently, this happened just a few hours before the oath of new Prime Minister Prachanda. As this happened during the day, there were not many deaths; however, more than 70,000 people and the Nepali nation suffered a huge loss over these acts of India. This has proved once again that the Koshi treaty was not a mutual treaty, and was against the interests of Nepal. India blocked a natural river leading to the flooding of Nepali territory.

On the next day of assuming office, PM Prachanda visited the affected sites and directed the local authorities not to leave a stone unturned to rescue the affected people and rehabilitate them. He established a Prime Minister Calamity relief fund and declared 20 million rupees from the government. He also provided his 10 days salary to the fund and urged the people of Nepal and international community to help the affected. Various political parties, organizations, and sympathetic individuals have been collecting donations to assist the flood victims. On August 25, President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav also visited the flood-affected area and shared his grief with the locals. Later he stated that the government should make a decision over the Koshi treaty.

According to the infamous Koshi treaty, it was India’s duty to repair and look after barrage and embankments of the river. Various experts and technicians have suggested the spur in the barrage needed serious attention and maintenance a few months ago. Some even suspect that it was a plot to stop Prachanda’s visit to China and foil Maoist-led government. However, more than two million people in India have also suffered from the Koshi flood.

Nepali political parties, organizations, and personnel have asked the Nepal government to demand India to stop of breaching of embankments, repair spurs at the earliest, and help in providing rescue and relief for the victims. They even want India to pay compensation for their grave and inhuman mistake.

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